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Multinational procurement: Why translation is an important long-term business commitment

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in Finance and Insurance, Healthcare, Oil and Gas, Retail and Ecommerce, Travel and Tourism

As a general rule, the bigger the business, the more complex it’s likely to be. This is especially true of organisations that operate globally, as not only do their executives have to supervise a huge, disparate workforce that is dotted around the world, they also have to successfully manage their respective enterprises across different timezones, languages and departments.

Moreover, as Ian Goldin, professor of globalisation and development at the University of Oxford, outlined in a blog last year for the London School of Economics, multinational companies exist in an ever complex world “of interconnectedness [that] also breeds interdependency”.

Executives need to be able to navigate around this exciting and uncertain environment with deft skill, react positively to a constantly changing backdrop and confidently adapt their business to meet new demands. While it’s certainly a demanding position to be in, it’s also a more dynamic and challenging way of working.

International “top-down governance” is required to be successful, professor Goldwin noted, particularly when it comes to global supply chains. Without it you have ambiguity, which means risk, a loss of control and an inability to be as effective as you can be.

In this feature we take a look at one of the key areas that needs major investment: translation. It can no longer be neglected or managed in an ad hoc manner. Here’s why you need to commit to a long-term relationship with a language service provider.

Strategic supplier relationships

The relationship that enterprises have with their suppliers has evolved tremendously over the years, more so since the financial crash of 2008. As business leaders took a cold, hard look at the way their organisation operated, a consensus of thought emerged: procurement needed to be better for all stakeholders.

As KPMG International noted in a paper, The Power of Procurement, this aspect of a business was an “add-on service”, with procurement departments having little control over how best to source and work with suppliers.

“Today however, many executives are increasingly looking to procurement to engage the business in strategic conversations about how the supply chain can be optimised to deliver the greatest returns,” explained Richard Nixon, a partner at KPMG in the UK.

Consequently, cultivating an ongoing, strategically focused relationship with a translation company makes a lot more sense than utilising their services in a reactive manner. It takes the burden away from business leaders, leaving with them a feeling of confidence that they have a reliable translation infrastructure in place.

Streamlined business processes

Procurement, if done well, can go beyond cost savings: it can radically change the way you work by making your operations more efficient and more productive. It’s about non-financial value and ultimately legacy: you’re establishing best practice processes that can act as a springboard to bigger and better things.

The more informal the relationship with a language service provider, the less reliable and transparent the translation process. No-one knows who to consult internally, where to go externally and what procedures to follow. Principally this is because there isn’t any suitable programme in place – the system is in disarray. Processes need to be streamlined and visible.

“Global companies with divisions in different countries begin by focusing on the internal organisation, rewriting the internal ‘rules of the game’ that are specifically related to collaboration,” the global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney outlined in its document How to Become a Procurement Champion.

“Rewriting the rules begins with establishing clear roles and responsibilities within procurement and the interfaces of headquarters and the larger procurement organisation; and then establishing responsibilities between procurement and other functions.”

An internationalised and compliant brand

All businesses have a distinct voice, a sense of identity that characterises who they are and what they stand for. Articulating that in one country has its own difficulties but, if conceived well, is fairly straightforward. Expressing it globally is a whole different ball game and requires regular third party support.

This is because ultimately, as an organisation, you are not going to possess the ability to translate consistently, across a myriad of departments, with the authority that is required. Through procuring the services of a language service provider, you can rest-assured that the style, tone and meaning of all your collateral is optimised for each target market.

Moreover, in addition to optimisation, a partner translation organisation that has experience in working with international businesses – or those looking to go global – can also deliver invaluable guidance on matters such as international compliance, which we discussed in detail in a previous article.

The key takeaway is that while organisations may be familiar with international rules and regulations, as well as that which is specific to their target markets, being able to translate that knowledge is likely to be lacking. This is where your long-term language service provider comes in – part of their role is to ensure that everything you do is backed by good global governance.

True internationalisation

Multinational and internationally-focused enterprises need to be explicitly global in everything they do. There is no getting away from that fact. To be able to effectively deliver quality to such a diverse audience, and with full consideration of the legal and cultural nuances that come with this environment, requires a high level of organisation and a high level of skill.

This is where your language service provider comes in. There has to be a real commitment to tapping into this expertise and that only comes with establishing a mutually beneficial relationship on a permanent basis. Out of this comes trust, reliability, rapport and a sense of ease that your supplier has a strong understanding of who you are as a business and what makes you unique.

Translation is indispensable. It’s an asset, an investment and an enabler, all of which reinforce its inherent importance in allowing a company to successfully engage different demographics. Allow your relationship with your language provider to mature and you will not be disappointed.



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